Whether you’re a beginner cyclist or a seasoned athlete, there are not many feelings that quite compare to the euphoria one experiences after completing a long bike ride. A satisfaction, unparalleled. A rite of passage for any avid cyclist, pushing that two-three hour mark is a significant feat that demands celebration and deserves many kudos!
Like many cycling milestones, though, a 3-4 hour ride can be an intimidating undertaking to pursue especially when it’s your first time. It's definitely not off-limits though, even to beginners. If you plan a reasonable route, ride with a group that’s supportive of first-timers, and prepare properly, there’s no reason you can’t tackle a longer ride even if you only have what you’d describe as a beginner’s level of fitness. Following are some tips that we’ve accrued over the kilometers. Preparation is KEY
A long ride isn’t a light undertaking, even for those of us who are used to it for many years. Preparation goes into a long ride in order to ensure it’s an enjoyable experience throughout. - Ensure you’re physically and mentally well-rested
Get 7-9 hours of sound sleep the night before and avoid hard workouts prior to your long ride. - Keep your pre-ride meal carb-heavy and easy to digest Food is the fuel that powers your muscles during the bike ride —keep the proteins for the post-ride recovery meal, but before heading out, you want to take it easy on the protein and fats as they take longer to digest and can add strain to your body during the bike ride. Prior to riding, top off your glycogen stores by stuffing yourself with plenty of whole grains, carbs, and fruit.
- Prepare the Night Before Get your cycling kit and ride essentials sorted the night before so you can slide your kit on, stuff your pockets, pump your tires and be on your way. Always check the forecast and prepare accordingly Here’s a checklist we follow before any bike ride. The Night Before - Bicycle Check (drivetrain, brakes, headset) Drivetrain Lubrication Bib shorts Base layer (if necessary based on weather and personal preference) Cycling Jersey Cycling Socks Cycling Caps and Gloves (optional and personal preference) Rainproof Jacket / Overshoes (in case of predicted rain) Helmet Sunglasses Cycling Shoes Energy (1 Bar and 2 Gels) Spare Tube Mini Pump Tire Levers Mini Toolkit Cycling Computer and Heart Rate Monitor (optional) Lights Charged (front optional during Day rides/rear lights essential all the time) Power Meter Battery (optional)
Pre Ride Inflate both tires to the desired pressure. Don’t forget your legs at home. Be Prudent about Pedaling Power. Efficiency is Everything.
You must pace yourself over a long ride. The pace/power you can sustain over 60 minutes will have you struggling mid-ride over longer durations. The excitement of a long ride can be hard to contain, but if you want your legs to last, you can’t go full gas from the get-go. Riding on efficient gears while maintaining a steady cadence and effort is key. The pedals should be moving smoothly beneath you, and you should look to maintain a cadence of at least 90-95 RPM (rotations per minute). A cadence sensor connected to a cycling computer can help us keep an eye on our cadence as we ride. Ride at a pace where your aerobic and muscular systems won’t get too stressed, and you’ll be able to sustain your effort.
Fuel well and Fuel often
The key is to eat before you’re hungry and drink before you’re thirsty. While cycling, by the time your body gets to tell your brain that it would like some fluids/fuel to be replenished, the muscles are already dehydrated and glycogen reserves emptied out. it is essential to put some thought into nutrition and hydration before heading out and planning for the distance and exertion level. The temperature will also affect these decisions and the exertion level will influence exact fluid amounts, but you generally want to aim to drink around one bottle per hour, that’s around 500-700ml. We recommend carrying a second water bottle with an electrolyte as it is essential to replenish the necessary electrolytes we lose through sweating.
You should also eat consistently throughout the ride, taking a bite or two every 20-40 minutes.
Segmentation goes a long way
We don’t really mean Strava Segments in this case but refer more to the mental segmentation of a long ride. For example, a 100km ride is basically 10km rides 10 times over. This immensely reduces the mental strain that the thought of a long-distance yet to be covered can put on our brains. Breaking the ride down into manageable chunks helps us avoid getting overwhelmed and enjoy the ride.
Focus on your Cadence and Take It Easy
Gravity and winds can be the best of friends or worst of foes, however, it’s important not to lose your cool when they get together to gang up on you. Remember that you’re focus should be on maintaining your cadence* rather than speed. In a group ride, riding behind riders can help with the wind, but ride at your own pace up climbs as a “No-Drop” group should regroup after.
Don’t hesitate when it comes to dropping as many gears as you need to to keep the cadence as riding a bicycle is more about being efficient than being powerful. We all have limited matches to burn, and it’s prudent to hold onto some until the last kilometers of a longer ride. *cadence is the number of pedal rotations measured per minute. A cadence of 90-95 is considered ideal for long durations of pedaling.
Avoid aches and pains with a few simple moves
Although no alternative to a good bike fit and interactive posture on a correct-sized bike for ideal anatomical interaction, slight adjustments throughout a longer ride can help with added comfort. Moving from the hoods to the drop on a road bike or shifting around on the saddle slightly when your quads start to burn, shift forward to use your hamstrings and calves, or If your calves or hamstrings start to burn, shift slightly back to take the effort to the quads.
It’s all in the Mind
Cycling is a multifaceted activity that involves your mental strength and tenacity as much as it involves your physical prowess. You take everything going on inside your mind and body onto the bike with you, and sometimes this can mean a predisposition to frustration or defeat. Make a promise to yourself before heading out that you’re going to focus on generating positivity. Enjoy your surroundings, congratulate yourself for doing something healthy, and push yourself to get to that next rest point.
Expect the best but be prepared for the worst
Positive thinking can go a long way, but longer rides also increase the chance of an incident. Safety is a paramount concern for ant group rides as errors can often involve those who were not at fault. Crashing aside, mechanicals and flat tires can also cause frustration. However, these can be quickly dealt with if you’re prepared for them.
Always ensure that you have the gear to fix at least two flats*, a mini tool, your cell phone, ID, and a bit of cash for any long ride. In a group, you’re always safer, but please pursue our Blog on Cycling Safe if you’re relatively new to group riding or cycling in general. *it's worth noting that if you ride alone, practicing basic repairs such as flat tire fixing is always ideal in a safe and controlled environment, i.e. your home, garage. If you're confident of your skills, it would mean less fuss on the side of the road, conditions where can be vastly varied.
Remember that it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. Spare tube Mini Pump Multi Tool / Tire Lever The three things to always have with you during all rides.